Saturday, October 23, 2021

MP says Zim chaos has no Botswana parallels

On the house floor, Gabane-Mankgodi MP, Major General Pius Mokgware, routinely takes no prisoners when he has to battle the government bench. Thus one would assume that the Wednesday tumult in Zimbabwe would provide him with an opportunity to take pot shots at the government.

However, Mokgware implicitly the ruling party marks for its conduct of government. He says that there are no similarities between what happened in Zimbabwe and what obtains in Botswana. Last Wednesday, the Zimbabwean army took control of key installations in the capital city, Harare, and put President Robert Mugabe and his family under house arrest. This followed a press conference two days earlier at which the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, whom Mokgware is personally acquainted with, used political language to warn that the army won’t stand idly by while the country sank deeper into chaos.

“The current purging and cleansing process in ZANU-PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern for us in the defense forces,” said Chiwenga, reading from a prepared statement. “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in. The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith.”

It is extremely difficult to imagine the commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) calling a press conference to complain about factionalism in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and issuing a barely concealed ultimatum. As an army spokesman announced on Zimbabwe’s state television two days after Chiwenga’s press conference, the conflict between the army and the government has been elevated to “another level.” That was after military tanks rolled into Harare and the Mugabes were put under house arrest. In order to perpetuate dominance of ZANU-PF by the Mugabe family, the faction that was dominant before the coup had hatched a plot to rig the outcome of a special congress that has been scheduled for next month. The army wants to prevent what Chiwenga would call shenanigans. In the Botswana context, this would be equivalent of the BDF high command insisting on having a say in how the BDP should run its elective congress.

Mokgware, who supports the action of the Zimbabwean army, says that Botswana’s political situation wouldn’t require the sort of military action that had to be taken in Zimbabwe. He is right but some people here have raised concern about the unethical relationship between the BDF and the BDP. Both the first two commanders (Lieutenant Generals Mompati Merafhe and Ian Khama) retired into party politics and cabinet hours after leaving the army. This could only mean that the party recruited both men when they were still holding a position that requires them to have nothing to do with partisan politics. Mokgware himself has alleged that the BDP sought to recruit him while he was still in the army and that he was forced to resign when he refused. The involvement of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) in both BDP and national politics is even more worrisome. To all intents and purposes, DIS is an intelligence arm of the President Khama’s faction and has also been accused of meddling in affairs of the opposition.

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